S/V DeJaVu. Stephen, Captain
I left Isla Mujeres Mexico on Wednesday, May 21st bound for Belize. I was lucky to find a boat heading south that needed an extra member, so I signed on. Stephen and. Pat had been in a Regatta El Sol race from Pensacola, Fla. to Isla Mujeres and were heading through Belize on the way to Rio Dulce, Guatemala, where Dale and I wintered hurricane season last year. After meeting them, Dale and I both agreed that they would be a good pair for me to sail with down to Belize, where they could find another crew member to go to Guatemala with them.
Stephen being a 52 yr. old owner/captain of his boat and having many years experience sailing with Pat, his helmsman, had participated in several regattas together, but the one this May was not to be a success!! The weather down from Florida was rather quirky and on the sail to Isla Mujeres they lost the entire steering to a cable malfunction that plagued them the entire race.
After reaching Isla Mujeres, they sought a mechanic and machinist who fabricated a part and replaced the steering cable. Thinking all was well, we started off to Belize early Wednesday morning and had fair sails all the way until we were parallel to Cozumel and the coastal area where we encountered winds of over 50 knots. The main sheet was broken, a part ripped out of the boom and our main sail became out of commission from the strength of the winds and the driving rains. Pat was man handling the helm, keeping the boat on course when a loud clank sounded and something clattered into the bilge area of the boat.
We couldn't tell what it was, as the steering still held so we kept on using only the jib and the motor. We felt we could make it to Belize without the main sail, using the motor and jib as we were caught in a 2 knot current pulling us south in the stream and were running around 6 knots. The rain was driving and the winds were behind us. My lack of strength and expertise made me useless in this scenario but I could occasionally help and I could help keep the crew awake and provide food.
As we whizzed along, suddenly a gust swept through and the entire steering cable snapped leaving the boat totally helpless! Both Pat, who was steering and Steve, who was sitting across from me whirled into action. The jib was brought in and I was sent below so they knew where I was and knew I was safe! They immediately opened the compartment in the bow of the boat where the emergency tiller was housed and got it installed in the housing so the boat could be brought back under control as it was rocking wildly in the 9 plus foot waves. Then we discovered the engine was overheating!!! A broken impeller was later discovered as the culprit!
Once order was more or less restored, Steve got on the Satellite phone and got in touch with the US Coast guard who requested we abandon ship!! (I did not know this until later as I was out of the loop below deck). Steve was not willing to give up the ship, so he contacted the Mexican Coast Guard who sent a Rescue Ship to our aid. They boarded ship not too far from the reefs of Tulum along the Mexican coast and took control of the helm. We were then towed back to Cozumel as there were no marinas anywhere near our location.
We were all exhausted and really weren't too sure what was going to happen next! Steve went with Immigration to try to find out how to get help while Pat and I stayed aboard in case we had more company. Since none of us spoke Spanish and none of them spoke English, we sort of smiled and did as we were told! Steve, as captain, took the lead and was successful in finding a marina and a person to guide us in repair. Jack became the man of the hour!!
We did have one more night of adventure prior to being able to limp into the marina on Friday morning. While we were anchored in the bay area on Thursday, where the marina was, we discovered that our anchor was dragging and our poor engine was not strong enough to pull us out of the current and back to a safe morning. Pat had crashed below and I was keeping Steve awake as he hadn't had any sleep for over 24 hours. He had rigged a rope over the emergency rudder and had attached it to a wench on the port side of the bow. By placing his foot on the rudder, he could steer left and pulling the rope on the wench, he could steer right and keep the boat on course.
After realizing that we were not making any headway due to the current dragging us further south, Steve chose to tack out into the channel away from the shore and the current and then be able to head back toward the northern shore where the marina was located. After having gotten to the apex of this course, he had a bite to eat and turned the helm over to me to head toward a point on shore that was above the entrance to the marina and fell asleep in the cockpit!
I kept on course with some maneuvering due to my inexperience, until we were in the current again and being taken down shore. I woke Steve who then got us to a point where we could drop the anchor again and this time it held and we went to sleep below, hoping we would awaken in the daylight to find ourselves still in the same place!
Friday morning, we limped into the marina to find that it was government owned and catered to fishing and tourism. The Mexican government had confiscated a private marina and the accompanying land, put a fence around it and called it theirs!! Once again we were checked out carefully by the authorities and when they realized the magnitude of our repairs, we were welcomed but have had to change slips numerous times while waiting through the weekend for the repairs to be made. We have been without electricity several times, but are very appreciative that the repairs are finished as of Wednesday, May 28 and we are ready to head back to Isla Mujeres from whence we came!! Hopefully, we will have a more pleasant journey back!
If I wanted adventure...I certainly got it! This has been a very interesting week. I have not been fearful for my life as I have been well protected by not only life vest, but the experience and expertise of the two men I sailed with. I did pray continually during the worse situations when I felt most helpless and got great peace from that. Other than a very badly bruised arm and a bruised rib, I suffered little injuries and neither of these things have bothered me enough to seek aid or kept me from functioning.
There are no amenities here at this marina. No restaurant, bar, showers, or WiFi....it is strictly a working marina. We are several miles from town, but at least the taxi drivers don't gouge us since many workers need their services as well.
I am now back on MokaKat and planning to fly to Placencia on Monday if all goes well! My luggage will follow at a later date as I have too much to carry by plane.
Well, my mom really had an adventure and I was very happy to know that she was safe. s/v Deja Vu ended up sailing back to Isla Mujeres after the repairs were done. Captain Steve was going to leave the boat at a local marina for a month or two, while he decides what to do. Mom came back on MokaKat for a couple of days, before she was able to fly successfully to Belize! The new owners of MokaKat allowed that her boxes of things stay on board and they delivered them to her in Belize later on! My mom is quite the adventurer and traveler! Good luck at Stepping Stones Resort in Belize!!!!
Happy Sailing on MokaKat!!!